Barickman supportive of marijuana legalization
Sen. Jason Barickman made some waves amongst constituents Wednesday, when he announced via a Facebook post that he would support legislation legalizing cannabis that he anticipated would be coming up for a vote next spring.
When reached for comment Thursday, Barickman said that while some of those he represents may vehemently disagree, he feels that marijuana legalization is in line with his beliefs in both limited government and responsible use of taxes.
Barickman, R-Bloomington, told the Daily Leader that the post was preempted by fielding questions from reporters after Gov. Bruce Rauner broached the same subject in an interview on WSIL of Marion. Rauner said that he did not support legalization.
But the Bloomington senator offered a differing view.
“Much study, conversation and thought has led me to release the following statement regarding the legalization of cannabis,” Barickman wrote Wednesday. “I understand that all of you may not agree with my conclusion, but I appreciate your comments and questions.
“Around the country, we’ve seen the public’s views on cannabis use change dramatically in a short amount of time. It wasn’t that long ago that cannabis was far more taboo than it is considered today. In Illinois, it’s likely that we’ll see legislation advanced, as early as next spring, which will attempt to legalize possession and use of cannabis.
“I am willing to support legalization for adult use if it is done correctly, which includes negotiating appropriate safeguards. While I acknowledge that cannabis use is largely a personal choice, I am particularly interested in appropriate safeguards for minors and for others who may be placed in danger from an individual’s use.”
His argument in favor for legalization was predicated on three facets: first, that prohibition of cannabis was an “inefficient use of taxpayers’ money;” second, that legalization could prove an economic boon to the state’s coffers; and third, individual rights that do not cause harm to others should always trump one’s personal taste of them.
But legalization of marijuana may open unintended doors, such as greater scrutiny of the state’s criminal justice system and those who may have suffered punitively from what may soon no longer be considered a crimes. According to the most recent data available and collected by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, 57,758 people were arrested in Illinois in 2011 for marijuana-related offenses.
What impact legalization would have on persons currently incarcerated for simple marijuana offenses remains to be seen. Barickman, however, believed that many of those serving significant time on cannabis charges were simultaneously being prosecuted on other, more serious offenses.
The senator was also aware that pot has previously been argued as a “gateway drug,” one that has a serious potential of leading to narcotics that are deemed, societally and legally speaking, as being more dangerous. However, he said that that was not a view he shared.
“I respect (those who have that opinion) greatly, but I do not agree with it,” he said. “If we look to the professionals wrestling with opioid addicts, what we find is that the addiction is the result of a (prior) addiction to painkillers,” one that led to a subsequent addiction to something worse.
“That’s far different than the notion that a young person who used cannabis over the weekend and that that led to the use of restricted drugs that are concerning. I’ve read and studied this a lot as I’ve come to my conclusions here, and I feel that there’s strong evidence that suggests marijuana is not a gateway drug.”
A legalization effort is likely to fall along partisan lines, with the state’s Democrats largely being in favor and with the Republicans being largely against. Barickman called legalization of cannabis use an “inevitability” in Illinois and other states, and felt that it was time to approach it as such. On the feedback he’d received on the post, Barickman said conservative constituents represented a diversity of opinions on the subject.
“What I encourage everyone — and this isn’t just about Republicans — I encourage everyone to look at this issue in a substantive way and respect the fact that we all won’t agree on every issue,” he said. “I at least hope that I have impressed upon them my approach to this which is a serious one and treating this as a serious matter of public policy in a state that needs some serious thinkers.”
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